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The Tinkhundla Fit For Children (TFFC) initiative is a localized and adapted version of the World Fit For Children which was introduced in Swaziland. The initiative, which is rooted in the Swazi culture that requires communities and families to support and care for all children in one way or the other regardless of their status in a given community, is facilitated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) with funding from the Danish National Committee.
As a pilot project, TFFC focuses communities on providing a “package” of protection, care and support services for children. It is being implemented in four Tinkhundla, namely, Mahlangatsha, Lomahasha, Timphisini and Hosea, covering 25 chiefdoms (communities) with a population of about 40,000 people. The goal of the project is to resuscitate economies and rebuild capacities of rural communities in ways that enable them to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS, give protection and opportunities to their orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), create food security and provide for the basic needs of children and families.
This goal is being pursued through nine (9) specific objectives:
Achieve in community leaders and families an understanding of child rights, of the concept of “duty bearers” for children's rights, and of key community and family gaps in realization of children's rights (including rights of participation and of play).
Establish community-based child monitoring systems in all project communities, linked to leadership committees, and tied to Tinkhundla child monitoring and reporting systems.
Develop and annually update community and Tinkhundla plans of action for children, designed to reduce or eliminate gaps in realization of child rights, especially for orphans and vulnerable children.
Provide grants for productivity and food security-enhancing agricultural and livestock inputs to homesteads which are providing good care and psycho-social support to orphans and vulnerable children.
Provide training for individuals (including children heading households) to bind together in savings schemes, and to identify good opportunities for investment of savings in productivity-enhancing innovations.
Ensure children participate in project planning and implementation activities, and have opportunities to make their views known and considered on issues affecting them.
Ensure all children and families receive comprehensive information on HIV and AIDS and its risk factors, in ways that lead to reduction of risk behaviour.
Assign and ensure adequate capacity of community duty-bearers for protection and promotion of children's rights, relevant to all stages of the life-cycle of children.
Build the capacities of neighbourhood care points (NCPs) to serve as a base to introduce innovations into the community (“menu” of possible areas includes early child development practices, life-skills training, hygiene, food and crop diversification, nutrition, gardening, no-till cropping, positive living).
The evaluation sought to measure the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, sustainability and impact of the TFFC model. The aspects explored were project needs identification, project ownership, project impact, sustainability of intervention and replicability. The evaluation focused on four TFFC project communities, one from each project Inkhundla, selected as follows: Bhahwini (Mahlangatsha), Lomahasha (Lomahasha), Ludzibini (Timphisini) and Manyiseni (Hosea). For comparison purposes, Malindza, which has not had any TFFC intervention, was also included.
The target population involved all project beneficiaries (community leaders, heads of households and children). The survey, using an interview schedule, involved a purposive sample of 400 respondents, consisting of 50 household heads and 50 children drawn from each community. Preliminary data were collected using a questionnaire for UNICEF staff. Focus group discussions (FGDs) were used to collect additional data from community leaders and service providers. Qualitative data were analyzed through inductive categorization of emerging ideas thematically and reported accordingly. The computer programme Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) PC+ Version 10 (2000) was used for the analysis of quantitative data, which were summarized in the form of frequencies, percentages, means and standard deviations.
Based on the findings of the evaluation, it can be concluded that only three out of nine project objectives have been accomplished to a great extent. These centre on: achieving in community leaders and families an understanding of child rights, of the concept of “duty bearers” for children's rights, and of key community and family gaps in realization of children's rights (including rights of participation and of play); ensuring that all children and families receive comprehensive information on HIV and AIDS and its risk factors, in ways that lead to reduction of risk behaviour; and assigning and ensuring adequate capacity of community duty-bearers for protection and promotion of children's rights, relevant to all stages of the life-cycle of children.
Incoherence, lack of integration in project components and a rather fragmented approach reflect a lack of convergence in project thinking and implementation and have led to difficulties in planning and coordination of the response, and have tended to impair project impact. The need to institute mechanisms that will enhance a sense of project ownership among beneficiaries; ensure participatory planning, implementation and project control; and allow for the evolution of succession planning cannot be overemphasized. The TFFC is replicable to a nation-wide scale as long as allowance can be provided for a consolidation period during which the shortfalls currently prevailing can be addressed satisfactorily.
The evaluation recommends that the TFFC project should engage with communities in order to identify suitable and appropriate opportunities for investment of savings in productivity-enhancing innovations. This process will not only serve to identify suitable individuals to be provided with training that would bind them together in savings schemes, but also allow for active participation, cultivate a sense of ownership, and create broad awareness of savings schemes and their role in enhancing family and community development.
It also recommends that the TFFC project should re-look at its existing mechanisms for child monitoring and reporting with a view to making them user-friendly and known to beneficiaries. Clear structures for involving beneficiaries in monitoring and reporting at chiefdom and Inkhundla levels should be created and schedules for reporting should be prepared. Beneficiary participation in monitoring and reporting will enhance their involvement in implementation of project activities, awareness of project outcomes, and will stimulate a sense of project ownership.
The TFFC project should institute a participatory planning process at chiefdom and Inkhundla levels to provide opportunity for beneficiaries, particularly children, to actively engage in and assume control of the development and updating of their plans of action. The process should ensure the involvement of children and adhere to agreed-upon planning schedules and norms. The project should use transparent and systematic means of identifying homesteads which are providing good care and psycho-social support to OVC in order to minimize complaints of favouritism and create broad awareness of the existence of grants to deserving homesteads. The homesteads receiving grants for productivity and food security-enhancing agricultural and livestock inputs should also receive training on crop and livestock production so that they can also serve as model farming and livestock keeping entities in their communities.
In order to enhance the pace and quality of service delivery, UNICEF should build teamwork among staff involved in TFFC activities to ensure that they operate in a holistic and integrated manner. It should also adopt a uniform set of child rights for use in advocacy in communities.
The TFFC project should address the problems constraining the development and performance of NCPs to ensure that they serve as a base to introduce innovations into the community. The guidelines and minimum standards highlighted in the NCP strategic plan should be utilized in addressing these problems. The project should also institute mechanisms for enhancing a sense of project ownership among beneficiaries; ensure participatory planning, implementation and project control; and allow for the evolution of succession planning. In this regard, the need for capacity building in the aspects of empowerment and animation techniques cannot be overemphasized.
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